Abstract Trichome-based host plant resistance of Lycopersicon species to potato moth, Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), was examined in a laboratory bioassay. Neonate P. operculella were placed on the foliage of accessions of L. hirsutum, L. hirsutum f. glabratum, L. pennellii, L. cheesmanii f. minor and L. esculentum for 48 h. At the end of this period, larval mortality, the numbers of larvae emigrating from, and mining into, the leaf surface were recorded as were leaf area and the densities of trichomes. Analysis by categorical logistic regression found accessions differed in levels of resistance to P. operculella (P < 0.001). Further analysis using generalised linear models showed mortality was associated with high densities of type VI and low densities of type V trichomes; emigration from the leaf was associated with high densities of type I and type VII trichomes; and the numbers of mines associated with low densities of type I and type VI trichomes and increased leaf area. Although results indicate that certain accessions of L. hirsutum and L. hirsutum f. glabratum may be most appropriate for inclusion in a breeding program aimed at introducing trichome-based host plant resistance of wild Lycopersicon species into the tomato, further research is necessary to fully understand the mechanisms.